If you’re a big fan of Katty Perry or have heard her hit song Dark Horse, then you are in for a shock.
Dark Horse vs. Joyful Noise
On Monday, a US court ruled that singer Katty Perry’s song Dark Horse has been copied from a Christian rap. The rap was Joyful Noise sung by Flame and released in 2009. Dark Horse was released in 2013 on Perry’s fourth album Prism earning her a Grammy’s nomination.
In 2014, Marcus Gray, whose stage name is Flame and two co-authors first sued Perry and co-authors. They alleged that the song was copied from Gray’s Christian rap Joyful Noise. And after five years and a week-long trial, the jury gave the verdict against the 34-year-old female pop icon.
The case didn’t focus on lyrics or recording but the notes and beats of the song. The unanimous verdict by the nine-membered federal jury left everyone surprised when not just some but all six songwriters and four corporations were found to be liable for copyright infringement.
Perry and the co-authors testified that none of them had heard Joyful Noise or even of Gray before the lawsuit. They didn’t even listen to Christian music.
But Gray’s attorney, Michael A Kahn, argued that Joyful Noise had wide dissemination with millions of plays on YouTube and Spotify. So, it could be easily copied down. He also pointed out that Perry was a Christian artist at the start of her career.
Who were all found liable?
Perry and Sarah Hudson, who wrote only the lyrics, and Juicy J. who only wrote the rap were found liable. Capital Records and Perry’s producers: Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Cirkut who were behind the Dark Horse‘s beat were also found guilty.
Gray’s lawyer argued that Dark Horse featured beat and an instrumental line which was similar to Joyful Noise. On Thursday, during closing arguments, Perry’s lawyer Christina Lepera said that the plaintiff-side was trying to own basic building blocks of music. She argued that the beat was very common to be used.
Perry proposed to perform in the courtroom
Perry was not present when the verdict was given. During the second day of the trial, due to some technical issues, Perry’s lawyers were having problems to play Dark Horse in the court. Perry earned bouts of laughter in the courtroom when she jokingly proposed to sing the song. “I could perform it live,” she said. But it wasn’t needed as the problem was resolved.
The court will determine how much Perry and other defendants owe for copyright infringement in the penalty phase. It was scheduled to begin Tuesday with opening arguments.